The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, the Consumers' Association in Finland, the Finnish Food Safety Authority EVIRA, and the European Consumer Centre in Finland urge consumers to take a critical view of weight-loss products. If the promises linked with a product sound too good to be true, it is best not to believe the claims.
Various products promising rapid loss of weight are advertised heavily on the internet and on Facebook. Most of the products are effectively fraudulent, because they do not fulfil the promises made in the advertising.
The Finnish Consumer Ombudsman and the European Consumer Centre in Finland has also received reports that other types of risks emerge in connection with ordering the weight-loss products. Consumers who are led to believe that they are ordering a free sample, or taking part in a contest, often start receiving regular deliveries of packages of products for which they are expected to pay.
Sometimes the buyer's credit card is billed for higher amounts than the advertising suggests. There have been cases in which the invoicing has continued even though the consumer has cancelled the contract according to the terms of regulations governing telesales. Promises that "satisfaction is guaranteed or your money back" have also not been kept. In addition, the companies selling the products are difficult, or impossible to contact.
Many of the companies behind the weight-loss products operate abroad with a post office box as their only address. Officials have very limited possibilities to intervene in their activities. The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, the Consumers' Association in Finland, the Finnish Food Safety Authority EVIRA, and the European Consumer Centre in Finland remind consumers that the best way to avoid being scammed is to take a critical attitude toward weight-loss products. There are a number of warning signs suggesting fraudulent marketing, including:
- Claims that weight loss is possible even without changing eating and exercise habits.
- The company does not give any contact information.
- The terms of the agreement are vague or non-existent.
- Advertising relies on the recommendation or approval of a single doctor, consumer, celebrity, or official.
More tips and advice can be found on the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority's fraud web page, the EVIRA website as well as the report (pdf) by the European Consumer Centres in Nordic countries on Unfair Commercial Practices and Unsolicited Goods.
The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority has long been monitoring fraudulent activities as a member of the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network (ICPEN). The network has more than 30 member states around the world, who traditionally issue warnings once a year of various scams with information on how consumers can protect themselves against them.